One of the most luxurious aspects of winter break is having the opportunity to follow my whims, whether they be reading articles, cooking, or watching movies. Rewatching 下一站,幸福, a Taiwanese drama, was an emotionally draining and fulfilling experience that helped me to really appreciate the complexities of human relationships and make sense of some of the thoughts I had coming out of my trip to Cancun.
I love watching dramas because their narrative structure enables writers to build complex characters and even more complex relationships. Although 下一站,幸福 uses many cheesy plot elements, the complex relationships that result, and the heartwarming and courageous conversations that characters engage in to resolve the complex hurt that they cause each other, work together to create a thought-provoking and endearing story.
To briefly, BRIEFLY introduce the characters (warning! some spoilers!!) and the plot of the first third of the drama: Liang Mu Cheng (f) and Ren Guang Xi (m) meet because Ren Guang Xi, the son of the president of Shende University, was dared to pursue Liang Mu Cheng and get a photo of him kissing her within 24 hours. Liang Mu Cheng is forced to agree because her family works in Shende University’s cafeteria and her auntie wanted Liang Mu Cheng to gain the favor of Ren Guang Xi and his family. On the date, Ren Guang Xi takes her to a hockey rink, and swoops her into his arms for a kiss when Liang Mu Cheng’s friend, Hua Tuo Ye, suddenly appears and tackles Ren Guang Xi to the floor to tell Liang Mu Cheng that it was all a dare. Instead of storming off, Liang Mu Cheng bravely and calmly stands up for herself and lies to her bully Ren Guang Xi telling him that he was actually the foolish one, because she made a bet with the university students that if he tried to kiss her, they would all buy meals from the cafeteria for a month. Livid, he storms off.
One day, he catches Liang Mu Cheng playing the piano in Shende Hall, storms in, and starts bullying her again. However, as the night unfolds, he realizes that unlike all the other pretty women he was dared to woo, Liang Mu Cheng is deeply thoughtful and wise, and as they grow closer together, he figures out that Liang Mu Cheng often escapes her home because her uncle has sexually assaulted her many times in the past. One night, when Ren Guang Xi is at a fundraising event and wasn’t able to meet Liang Mu Cheng in Shende Hall, Liang Mu Cheng’s uncle shows up instead and assaults her. Ren Guang Xi rushes in just in time to beat her uncle up, and her uncle tells the police that it is Liang Mu Cheng who was seducing him. Liang Mu Cheng’s auntie throws Liang Mu Cheng out of the house because she doesn’t want to face the reality that the man she depends on has been betraying her and preying on Liang Mu Cheng. Ren Guang Xi acts as Liang Mu Cheng’s attorney in court, successfully defending her and finding her a new place to live.
Meanwhile, Ren Guang Xi’s mom wants him to marry He Yi Qian, a beautiful doctor from a wealthy family. Ren Guang Xi refuses, because he loves Liang Mu Cheng. However, Ren Guang Xi soon discovers that he has a brain tumor, and lies to Liang Mu Cheng so that she would not be present to learn about his health condition. Ren Guang Xi’s mother learns that He Yi Qian’s father developed a new procedure that is much less risky than any other procedure, and forces Liang Mu Cheng to lie and tell Ren Guang Xi that he’s going into the riskier procedure that doesn’t involve He Yi Qian’s family, whereas the plan is to wait until he is sedated, and then wheel him into the less riskier procedure that Ren Guang Xi wants to avoid because he doesn’t want to owe anything to He Yi Qian. However, Ren Guang Xi ends up waking up in the middle of the surgery, realizing his mother’s plan, and running out of the hospital to find Liang Mu Cheng, who, in hopes of forcing him back into the surgery that would save his life, lies to him and tells him that she does not love him and that he cannot bring her happiness because he is so sick. Hua Tuo Ye brings Liang Mu Chen to his village, where she raises her son Xiao Le. When Ren Guang Xi wakes up from his surgery, he doesn’t remember anything and has to completely relearn how to walk, to eat, to speak. He Yi Qian patiently stands by his side to help him through his recovery, and she ends up falling in love with him and is forced by his mom to keep quiet his past.
What I love about this story
A really unique aspect of this drama is that the secondary characters, Hua Tuo Ye and He Yi Qian, who are in love with Liang Mu Cheng and Ren Guang Xi respectively, are admirable, brave characters who I really root for. Hua Tuo Ye helps Liang Mu Cheng to raise her diabetic son for 6 years, and has protected her in many critical moments. Although Liang Mu Cheng never loved him romantically, she knows how steadfast of a friend he has been, and does everything in her power to help him when he needs it, which causes misunderstandings between herself and Ren Guang Xin. He Yi Qian stood by Ren Guang Xi’s side every day after his surgery even before she was romantically interested in him, and is a humble, compassionate, and loving doctor. One of my favorite scenes is one in which she arrives at Liang Mu Cheng’s house on a rainy day. Her heels are muddy, and she asks for a towel to wipe her shoes. When Hua Tuo Ye mocked her for being uptight, she, without a word, wipes her shoes and proceeds to wipe the stairs leading up to the door and washes the muddy towel. (This was one of many scenes in which a character quietly diffuses misunderstanding and tension, and for someone as hotheaded as I am, this was a really remarkable scene for me to learn from.) Eventually, Hua Tuo Ye and He Yi Qian are both deeply hurt by Liang Mu Cheng and Ren Guang Xi, but nevertheless, they still choose to help Liang Mu Cheng and Ren Guang Xi to understand how much they truly love each other, despite the messiness of their relationship. Eventually, because Hua Tuo Ye loves and understands Liang Mu Cheng so deeply, and because He Yi Qian also loves and understands Ren Guang Xi, they tactfully and lovingly convince Liang Mu Cheng and Ren Guang Xi to each cherish each other.
Furthermore, this drama is filled with moving moments of dialogue that show how one does not win over someone else through force or strength, but with patience, kindness, and compassion. There are so many moments of the drama during which I had no idea how a broken relationship would ever, ever be mended. But the drama surprised me each time with how a conversation – not some gimmicky plot element out of nowhere – slowly mends the inevitable hurt presented by the inevitable challenges of life. In particular, Liang Mu Cheng and Ren Guang Xi’s son, Xiao Le, infuses the drama with so much innocent but mature wisdom, and made me really reconsider some of the fears I have about having children, given my experiences watching my parents raise my baby (now 10-year old) sister. Xiao Le plays a very unique role in bringing Liang Mu Cheng and Ren Guang Xi together and helping them experience so much more out of life, and I’d really like to think that perhaps having children will be a very fulfilling, and not just a self-sacrificing and difficult, experience. Of course, I recognize that this drama is fictional, but through it, I better understand why for my mom, watching my brother, sister, and I be happy brings her a truly fulfilling and unique happiness.
I also love how this drama portrays many realistic instances when someone lies to protect the one they love, at the expense of themselves. Even though I absolutely resented Ren Guang Xi’s mother throughout the drama, at the end, Ren Guang Xi learns that she made the ultimate sacrifice for him, and it is she who powerfully convinces him that his relationship with Liang Mu Cheng is one he should fight for. As a 21-year old, I’m not often told to persist in a romantic relationship; I’m young, I shouldn’t settle, I should put those who hurt me behind. But I was really, really moved by different characters’ wise persistence in loving those around them and fighting for the happiness of their loved one.
Surprisingly, for such a romantic drama, the lovers don’t show physical affection frequently. I found this to be so refreshing, so rare, and so moving. In many American films, couples kiss and make out and have sex so casually, but in this drama, when Liang Mu Cheng and Ren Guang Xi finally came together in the end and kissed, my heart almost exploded. Their love, their relationship, and this moment of affection, was one they had worked so, so hard for, and that kiss meant so much. aksjladj;akshlj